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HeadlinesMarch 20, 2019

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Trump Hosts Brazilian President Bolsonaro, Threatens New Venezuela Sanctions

Mar 20, 2019

President Trump hosted Brazil’s far-right president and former Army captain Jair Bolsonaro at the White House on Tuesday. Bolsonaro has been dubbed the “Trump of the Tropics.” Trump announced he would designate Brazil a major non-NATO ally, opening the door for Brazil to receive more U.S. military aid. Trump also suggested Brazil could even become a member of NATO. The two leaders both criticized what they called the fake news and discussed increasing efforts to remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from office. President Trump threatened to further intensify crippling U.S. sanctions on Venezuela, which is already facing a humanitarian crisis.

President Donald Trump: “But we really haven’t done the really tough sanctions yet. We can do the tough sanctions. And all options are open, so we may be doing that. But we haven’t done the toughest of sanctions, as you know.”

We will have more on Brazil after headlines.

SCOTUS Rules Gov’t Can Detain Immigrants with Criminal Records Indefinitely

Mar 20, 2019

In a major blow for immigrant rights, the Supreme Court ruled the government can detain immigrants with past criminal records indefinitely and without due process—even decades after their convictions. The 5-4 ruling Tuesday in favor of the government centers around a 1996 law that allows immigration officials to take immigrants into custody after they are released from jail—but without specifying a time frame. The ACLU, which brought the case on behalf of immigrants affected by the law, said, “[T]he Supreme Court has endorsed the most extreme interpretation of immigration detention statutes, allowing mass incarceration of people without any hearing, simply because they are defending themselves against a deportation charge. We will continue to fight the gross overuse of detention in the immigration system.”

40-Year-Old Mexican Migrant Dies in Gov’t Custody

Mar 20, 2019

A 40-year-old Mexican migrant died in El Paso, Texas, while in the custody of Customs and Border Protection Monday. Officials say the unnamed man was brought in for medical care and diagnosed with flu-like symptoms, liver and renal failure. He died just one day after he was apprehended by Border Patrol. He is the fourth known migrant to die in recent months while in government custody.

Asylum Seekers Waiting in Mexico Return to U.S. for Hearings

Mar 20, 2019

In more immigration news, asylum seekers who were sent back to Mexico by the Trump administration while they awaited legal proceedings returned to the U.S. Tuesday for their first hearings. Lawyers for the migrants are requesting their clients be allowed to remain in the U.S. while their cases proceed. This is attorney Robyn Barnard from the group Human Rights First.

Robyn Barnard: “We have evidence about the dangers that asylum seekers and refugees face in Mexico, in this part of Mexico, as well, so we plan to present that to the judge and to the government today to say that’s the reason why they shouldn’t be sent back to fight their case from Tijuana.”

According to U.S. officials, around 240 migrants who entered the U.S. since late January have been sent back to Mexico under the controversial policy as their asylum requests are processed.

Report: U.S. Airstrikes Killed At Least 14 Civilians in Somalia Since 2017

Mar 20, 2019

A new report by Amnesty International released Tuesday found that U.S. airstrikes have killed at least 14 civilians in Somalia since 2017—despite government officials maintaining there have been no civilian casualties. U.S. air raids in Somalia have steadily increased since Trump came to office and authorized the use of targeted strikes against suspected al-Shabab militants. According to the think tank New America, at least 252 people have been killed in around two dozen U.S. airstrikes in Somalia so far this year. The airstrikes could amount to violations of international humanitarian law and even constitute war crimes, according to Amnesty International.

At Least 10 Migrants Drown Off Libyan Coast

Mar 20, 2019

At least 10 migrants traveling by boat died Tuesday after their vessel sank off the Libyan coast. At least one baby was among the dead, according to Libyan officials. Seventeen people were rescued. The migrants came from various nations, including Sudan and Bangladesh. This is one of the survivors of the shipwreck.

Shipwreck survivor: “We arrived in the middle of the water. The captain said we can’t continue. The side of the wave hit us. Two children died, two newborn babies. Myself, my leg broke. Girls with broken legs, pregnant women were stuck in the water.”

Israeli Forces Shoot and Kill 3 Palestinians in West Bank

Mar 20, 2019

Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian man Tuesday they suspected of carrying out an attack in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, which resulted in the killing of an Israeli soldier and a rabbi. In a separate incident in the West Bank Tuesday, Israeli forces shot and killed two Palestinian men at a holy site near the city of Nablus. Israeli soldiers say the two men threw explosives from a car. There are no known injuries from the alleged explosives attack.

Egypt Cracks Down on Online Dissent

Mar 20, 2019

In Egypt, the top media regulator is imposing new restrictions on certain websites and social media pages that are designated as “threats to national security.” The rule would apply to social media accounts that have over 5,000 followers, and allow the government to block access to the sites for posting so-called fake news, and fine them up to $15,000 without a court order. Journalists and press freedom advocates have condemned the move, which they say is just the latest effort by the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to silence critics. Reporters Without Borders has called Egypt “one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists.”

Russia Signs New Laws Censoring State Critics

Mar 20, 2019

Meanwhile, in Russia, President Vladimir Putin signed two new media laws Monday in what critics say is a ramp-up of state censorship. The laws target so-called fake news and criticism of public officials, and impose penalties on individuals and groups that disrespect the state, including hefty fines and blocking the sites. Individuals are also subject to imprisonment for certain offenses.

Colombia: 2 Community Leaders Killed as Violence Against Activists Mounts

Mar 20, 2019

In Colombia, two more community leaders have been killed over the past week. Alfonso Correa was an environmentalist and member of the local peasants’ association, and local leader Argemiro López fought for replacing illegal crops. The killings are the latest in a spate of activist murders in Colombia.

Trump Nominates Former Delta Exec. to Head FAA

Mar 20, 2019

Back in the U.S., President Trump nominated former Delta executive and pilot Steve Dickson to lead the Federal Aviation Administration. The agency has not had a permanent head in over a year. Trump had wanted to nominate his personal pilot John Dunkin, but he faced scrutiny over his lack of qualifications. Dickson’s nomination comes as investigators are looking into the approval and development of Boeing 737 MAX 8 jetliners in the wake of two fatal crashes—last week’s Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and October’s Lion Air Flight 610 in Indonesia. Both crashes killed all crew and passengers on board and were found to have “clear similarities” based on early data.

Reports: Lion Air Flight Nearly Went Down 1 Day Before Fatal Accident

Mar 20, 2019

Reports are emerging the Lion Air flight almost went down the day before the deadly accident, but an off-duty pilot riding in the cockpit knew how to disable a malfunctioning flight control system, which was likely pushing the nose of the plane down. On Tuesday, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao ordered an audit of the certification process for Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 aircraft.

Texas: Massive Petrochemical Fire Extinguished After Smoke Blankets Community

Mar 20, 2019

In Texas, a massive fire at a petrochemical storage terminal in Deer Park, near Houston, has reportedly been extinguished in the early hours of Wednesday morning, after raging since Sunday, releasing a thick plume of smoke that blanketed large swaths of the surrounding area. Nearby schools were closed earlier this week, and residents were advised to limit outside exposure. Bryan Parras of the Sierra Club said, “We’re living through an ongoing petrochemical disaster, and the government response is … that the poison we can smell and taste for ourselves isn’t harming our health and our children. Officials needs to be honest with the public … ITC needs to be held accountable and the regional public officials need to take a serious look at the Chemical Disaster Risk that exists along the Houston Ship Channel and prioritize the health and well being of surrounding communities.”

Warner Bros. CEO Resigns, Accused of Advancing Career of Actress He Had Affair With

Mar 20, 2019

The chair and CEO of Warner Bros., Kevin Tsujihara, resigned earlier this week, after he was alleged to have used his position to get acting roles for a woman he was having an affair with. Tsujihara had been recently promoted to oversee children’s programming at Warner Media, despite apparent knowledge of his affair with an actress who worked for his studio. AT&T acquired Warner Media last year for $85 billion.

West Virginia AG Sues Church Under Consumer Protection Law

Mar 20, 2019

West Virginia’s attorney general filed a lawsuit against the state’s Roman Catholic diocese and a former high-ranking bishop Tuesday for “knowingly employ[ing] pedophiles.” West Virginia is accusing the church of violating a consumer protection law by failing to conduct proper background checks on new hires that would be in contact with children at schools and camps, and for covering up sexual abuse. By citing consumer protection, the case will be civil rather than criminal, which legal experts say could be more successful due to strict statutes of limitations on sexual crimes.

Mississippi Diocese Releases List of 37 Clergy Accused of Sexual Abuse

Mar 20, 2019

Meanwhile, a Catholic diocese in Mississippi has released a list of 37 clergy members it believes are guilty of sexual crimes against minors. The cases date back to 1939 and include children as young as 5.

Pope Francis Rejects Resignation of Cardinal Who Covered Up Sexual Abuse

Mar 20, 2019

In more news about the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has rejected the resignation of French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who was found guilty of failing to report allegations of sexual abuse against Boy Scouts in his diocese the 1980s and ’90s. Barbarin will instead temporarily “step aside.”

CA Jury Finds Monsanto’s Roundup Guilty of Causing Man’s Cancer

Mar 20, 2019

A San Francisco jury found that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide was a “substantial factor” in the cancer of California resident Edwin Hardeman. The federal case could have implications for hundreds of others accusing the company of making them sick. Hardeman says he sprayed the widely used herbicide on his property for almost three decades and once got the product directly on his skin. He has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The jury will now consider damages owed by Bayer, which owns Monsanto. In August last year, a state jury awarded a former school groundskeeper nearly $300 million in damages after Monsanto’s Roundup was found to be responsible for his cancer, though the amount was later reduced to $78 million.

Mississippi Senators Pass “Fetal Heartbeat Law”

Mar 20, 2019

In reproductive rights news, Mississippi senators have passed the controversial, highly restrictive so-called fetal heartbeat law, which bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected—something that typically happens just six weeks into a pregnancy and before many women even realize they’re pregnant. The bill now heads to the desk of Republican Governor Phil Bryant, who has vowed to sign it.

Rutgers Faculty Union Authorizes Call for Strike

Mar 20, 2019

In New Jersey, faculty at Rutgers University have authorized union leaders to call for a strike as ongoing contract negotiations have failed to reach an agreement. Union members are demanding more full-time faculty, equal pay for women staff, increased staff diversity, job protection for librarians and a salary raise for teaching assistants. If the union does decide to strike, it would be a first for faculty and graduate employees in the school’s 253-year history.

NYC: Immigrant Rights Activist Who Scaled Statue of Liberty Gets 5 Years’ Probation

Mar 20, 2019

Immigrant rights activist Patricia Okoumou, who was arrested last year after scaling the Statue of Liberty to protest family separations, was sentenced to five years of probation and 200 hours of community service. Okoumou arrived at the New York City court, where she was greeted by supporters. She taped her mouth and other parts of her face before entering the courthouse for her ruling. Okoumou has vowed to continue her activism and protests against Trump’s immigration policies.

Okwui Enwezor, Noted Curator and Promoter of African Art, Dies at 55

Mar 20, 2019

And renowned Nigerian art curator Okwui Enwezor has died at age 55 after a battle with cancer. Enwezor was the director of the Haus der Kunst museum in Munich, Germany, until last year. He was also an art critic, educator, editor and writer. He worked to put African art and artists center stage, as well as women artists. In 1994, he founded Nka, a magazine for contemporary African art. His exhibit “The Short Century,” celebrating African art and independence movements, was hailed as a landmark exhibition. Enwezor was the first African-born chief curator of the Venice Biennale and was widely credited for bringing political art back to the prestigious festival. Democracy Now! spoke to Okwui Enwezor in Venice in 2015.

Okwui Enwezor: “Art matters in many, many different ways, and I think it’s both in the large and small ways, that one can begin to see the utility of art not as something to be appropriated as propaganda or for ideological purposes, but the utility of art as a learning tool, as a teaching tool, but also as a way for the public to learn how to kind of expand their view of the world.”

That was Okwui Enwezor, who died Friday at the age of 55 in Munich, Germany. Click here to see our whole interview with him at the Venice Biennale.

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